When I want a dessert for a dinner party, I often turn to this recipe for delectable, melt-in-your-mouth cookies fragrant with butter and the caramel flavors of light brown sugar. I’ll experiment with surprising flavorings, from fresh thyme, to Shaker-inspired rosewater and nutmeg, to a few drops of orange flower water that subtly intensifies the flavor of the butter, a trick I learned from my Greek grandmother.
My favorite, and invariably the biggest hit, is ground Earl Gray Tea, with the citrus-floral scent of bergamot, a fragrant essential oil from the peel of a small acidic orange.
I bake the cookies at the end of the meal and place the cookie sheet hot out of the oven in the center of the table (on trivets), along with a metal spatula for the guests to serve themselves warm cookies. If they like they can spoon on some whipped crème fraiche from the bowl in the middle of the table…
In addition to Early Gray Tea, possible flavorings for this dough are endless.They include:
— fruit zest such as lemon, orange or lime
—the seeds scraped out of a split vanilla bean makes, especially delicious in league Bourbon or Kahlua
— ground sweet spices such as cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, white pepper, singly or in combination
— replacing the vanilla extract with brandy, bourbon, rum or Kahlua
—1/4 teaspoon orange flower water or rosewater. Rosewater and grated nutmeg make Shaker-inspired flavorings
—About 2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, lemon thyme, lemon verbena
—about 1 tablespoon lavender or rose geranium, finely minced, alone, in combination, or in tandem with grated lemon or orange zest
Recipe: Earl Gray Tea (and Other Surprisingly Flavored) Butter Cookies
Instead of Early Gray tea, try any of the flavorings listed above in place of it. Add to the dough tasting until you hit the right intensity.
The dough can be formed in a variety of shapes by rolling it out and cutting it into wedges, squares or rectangles that can serve as cookies or as “top crusts” for freeform tarts. Fashion a cookie house like the one from Patisserie Burrow, above, by cutting out rectangles in descending sizes.
You can refrigerate the dough up to 2 weeks or freeze to 2 months; thaw in the refrigerator 8 hours before baking.The cookies will last several weeks when stored in an airtight container.
Makes about thirty 1 1/2-inch round cookies
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
A scant 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 teaspoons finely ground Earl Grey tea (Cut open 4 tea bags and extract the tea, or if using loose tea, grind it to a powder in a blender or clean coffee grinder)
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cornstarch
In a food processor, combine the butter, sugar, salt, and vanilla and process to a light, fluffy paste, 20 to 30 seconds. Remove the lid and add the flour and cornstarch. Pulse8 to 10 times until the dough begins to clump together and the mixture is fairly uniform. Gather the dough together into a rough ball, kneading a few times if necessary. (You can also mix the dough by hand or with an electric mixture).
Form the soft dough into a log about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Gently roll up the log in plastic wrap and refrigerate to firm up until ready to use, at least 1 hour.inches in diameter. Gently roll up the log in plastic wrap and refrigerate to firm up until ready to use, at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 325’. Arrange the oven racks in the lower half of the oven.
Using a thin knife, slice the chilled log crosswise into 1/8-inch thick slices and arrange them 1 1/2 inches apart on a cookie sheet. (If the dough is very soft, place the cookie sheet in the freezer 10 minutes to firm up.)
Bake cookies until the edges are just beginning to brown, about 20 minutes.
To store the cookies, with a thin metal spatula, transfer the cookies to a cooling rack; cool completely before packing into a tin.
OR to serve immediately, place the warm sheet of cookies on trivets on the table and have your guests serve themselves, spooning on whipped cream or creme fraiche to guild the lily…